WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for drug possession and smuggling. Griner had been found guilty of the charges in court and finally received her sentencing on Thursday.
Griner was arrested in Feb. for carrying cannabis oil vape cartridges onto an airplane while she was playing for her long-time overseas team UMMC Ekaterinburg. Griner said she made an honest mistake by carrying the vape cartridges while traveling. Russian prosecutors had asked for 9.5 years before the ruling. The time she’s served in custody since her arrest will count towards her sentence.
The United States and Russian have engaged in conversations about a potential agreement around her release, but no agreement has been reached yet. Earlier this summer, it was reported that the White House offered to release Russian international arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and fellow American detainee Paul Whelan.
Griner has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014 during the WNBA offseason. President Biden issued the following statement after the sentencing:
President Biden: "Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 4, 2022
Griner was carrying two cartridges that each contained one gram of cannabis oil. Americans can legally purchase the same cannabis oil cartridges she was carrying in 19 states for recreational purposes.
The WNBA and NBA have issued the following statement after her sentencing:
WNBA players have been urging Russia for her release all season. Players wore jerseys with Griner’s name and No. 42 on the back during the second half of the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game.
Now that Griner is sentenced, negotiations between the United States and Russia could begin to get more serious.
We’ll update this story as it develops.